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Columnists

The working class must now stand up to the corrupt elite

Kenyans gathered at a past public function
Kenyans gathered at a past public function. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

Do you recall Ukraine’s Orange Revolution of 2004? It was the culmination of deep-seated issues in the country but the spark that ignited it was an election fraud pitting Viktor Yanukovych (prime minister at the time) and who was the favourite of the corrupt ruling elite - against opposition candidate Viktor Yushchenko.

The State machinery, of course controlled by the elite, had for several months been unleashed against the opposition candidate and odds looked stacked against him winning.

Over the years, Ukraine had acquired an international reputation as a seamy State led by a criminal elite ruling over a passive populace; and the president merely sat at the head of a vast criminal system. This triggered a class war in post-Soviet Union Ukraine.

In a capitalistic economic system, private entities own the factors of production, which traditionally encompass land, capital and labour (and owners of these factors are rewarded by way of rent, dividends or profits and wages respectively).

Capital employs labour. And that elevates the former over the latter. Merchants of capital can also conspire with the political class to concentrate economic power within their ranks through cronyistic means. In the long-run, this arrangement creates a class division through a dislocation between economic growth and expansion in wages.

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Instead, an economic system benefitting the bourgeoisie emerges. In many cases, labour has to organise and push back to claim its fair share and clip excesses of the ruling elite. For Ukraine, the working class, who largely wanted to align with the West, pushed back hard.

“Don’t go to work, just go to Maidan, because tomorrow, it’s our last chance,” read banners.

Maidan was the central square of Kiev, Ukraine’s capital. Events preceding Ukraine’s Orange Revolution aren’t any different from Kenya.

The corrupt elite ruling Kenya today continue to preside over draining of the fiscus. Today, we don’t talk of the rich-poor gap solely on nominal terms, but also in terms of economic opportunities. For the post-independence generation, education and hard work could guarantee social mobility.

That has changed and those two ingredients alone can no longer ensure mobility. And it’s down to the corrupt elite capturing the fiscus to further their own private economic interests over the years-and especially over the past seven.

Worse still, the so-called ruling elite create no value in the economy. They don’t pay taxes and create zero jobs (yet they drive top-of-the range cars and live in plum addresses).

It’s time the working class pushed back because they bear the brunt of fiscal indiscipline.

Back in 2016, the then Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission Chairman Philip Kinisu estimated that Kenya loses a third of its budget to corruption every year. Today there are just about two-and-half million regular tax payers.

Every fiscal year, the State, for its failure to expand the tax base, has to increase taxes to fund its blue-sky consumption and vanity projects. And guess who’s pocket they raid: the working populace.

Killed middle class

Adding to stagnant wages, the government has slowly killed the middle class. Between 2002 and 2007, which represented the period of a new political dispensation in Kenya, wages appeared to keep in tandem with corporate earnings.

However, a divergence emerged in 2008, where corporate earnings completely disentangle from wages. This divergence between corporate earnings and wage growth speaks to the fact that as the economy grows, the benefits are not passed onto labourers and only the few, often described as ‘one percent’ benefit.

The working class must kickstart and lead an ideological as well as economic revolution. Their passiveness means they are always a medical bill away from poverty.

@GeorgeBodo

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